Steuben County legislators took a strong stand Monday against a proposed state law giving collective bargaining rights to farmworkers.
The Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act also would provide for overtime pay and unemployment insurance benefits.
“It seems as if Gov. Cuomo, and the state Legislature, are determined to eliminate as many dairy farms as they can in the state,” said county Legislator Robert Nichols, R-Addison. “Not just dairy farms, other types of farms, too.”
A long-time dairy farmer, Nichols said the law would be devastating to the agriculture industry across the state.
“When they’re talking overtime, they don’t mean the 40-hour week we think of,” Nichols said. “They’re talking an eight-hour day, if someone works nine in a day, the ninth is overtime. On a farm, if it rains for three days then people may work 12, 16 hours the next day to make up for it. Apparently, Gov. Cuomo just wants farmers to leave the state.”
Opponents of the act, including the state Farm Bureau, charge the proposal would impose a crippling cost, statewide, of $300 million annually on farmers, already financially burdened by state regulations.
In New York, some 20 percent of the county’s once-thriving dairy farms have been driven out of business during the past five years according to county Legislator Aaron Mullen, R-Avoca.
County Legislator Carol Ferratella, R-Riverside, said the Inter County Association of Western New York also adopted a resolution opposing the law when it met Friday in Genesee County.
Steuben legislators called for the state to hold public hearings on the impact of the proposed law.
“The state just doesn’t want us farmers around, I guess,” Nichols said.